Is Tony Parker the Man?
One of the trends of this postseason is a new found suggestion that Tony Parker is the lead dog in San Antonio. In one article, Parker is referred to as a superstar. I want to take a minute to respond to this perspective.
To start, Tony Parker has elevated his game this season. He’s clearly entered into a new phase of dominance, and the superstar label does not seem overblown. In my estimation, he is the 4th best guard in the league, trailing Bryant, Wade and Paul. That’s pretty good company. It’s worth noting that Parker is near his prime, but may not have hit his ceiling. If he were to develop a reliable 3 point shot, for example, he’d average 25 points per game.Â And I’m not convinced he’s hit his ceiling as a distributor, either. He might have more point guard lurking within that is still waiting for discovery. He’s only 26. Let’s wait a couple years before pronouncing his final arrival as a basketball player.
It’s hard to call Tony Parker a top 4 guard, but not because Parker hasn’t earned that recognition. It’s difficult because IÂ used to slot Manu Ginobili into that position. Ginobili, then, is the 5th best guard on the planet. Or something like that. But Ginobili will be 32 in July and it’s reasonable to expect that Tony Parker has finally surpassed him in the superstar rankings. I trust our readers understand this is not meant as disrespect toward Manu Ginobili. It’s not. He’s still a stud.
It’s been a difficult season for San Antonio Spurs fans because of the injuries to Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. But, in a sense, those injuries have forced Parker to elevate his game, and, if one is inclined to look for such things, that can be taken as a silver lining. Whatever the case, Parker is improved and every other team in the league must rethink their defensive game plan from here out.Â It’s possible that Parker, in a nice switch, will actually elevate Duncan’s play next season—those familiar double teams might not come as often as teams focus their attention on Parker. Parker’s consistently shown an ability to beat good teams. Ask the Mavericks. He can go in front, asking his teammates to follow his assault.
Having said this, I’m not yet willing to consign Tim Duncan to the role of second fiddle. He’s injured. Prior to his quad injury, Duncan was having one of his best seasons. His numbers were on par with his MVP campaigns in all categories but points. As a post passer, Duncan has rarely played better. He was, I think, the second best big in the league this season, coming up short to Dwight Howard.Â If he were fully healthy, this conversation would seem silly.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume Tim Duncan does start to slide.Â What I want to say is simply this: don’t panic. The Spurs will be fine. Tony Parker is a superstar, and Tim Duncan is not a bad second option. The Spurs won 54 games this season at about 70% of their optimum strength.Â In light of this, let’s make a second assumption, for the sake of argument. What do the Spurs look like if Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan return to near full strength next season. 58 wins? Championship in the cross-hairs? I think so.
A week ago, the mood all around SpursNation was that the 2009 season was a loss. But that was all relative to expectation. For most fan bases, 54 regular season wins and a chance to make real noise in the playoffs is a dream scenario. In Denver, 54 wins is a banner season. In San Antonio, it’s all so humdrum, especially when poisoned by the killjoy of injury. But since I’m talking about expectations, I’d like to say we should raise ours. Tony Parker has taught us this.
Let’s not play the role of the annoying preseason prognosticator whose chiefÂ joy is pronouncing the annual (premature) death of the Spurs. You know, those sages of decline whom we dismiss with a derisive glance.Â We should expect the Spurs to march into Dallas tonight and put game 1 to rights. Tony Parker’s arrival at super-stardom is just a reminder that we’ve plenty more years to cheer a championship squad. Now that Tony Parker is recognized as a superstar, some things do set up differently for the Spurs. But more than anything, it’s the same old story you’ve grown to love.